Breast cancer: 'revolutionary' one-shot treatment for NHS

Intrabeam radiotherapy means patients can avoid exhausting trips to hospital for weeks of treatment

 A nurse performs a mammography for the detection of breast cancer
(Image credit: MYCHELE DANIAU/AFP/Getty Images)

Tens of thousands of people with breast cancer could soon be offered a single shot of radiotherapy on the NHS.

The "revolutionary" treatment, called Intrabeam radiotherapy, has been given a provisional go-ahead by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), reports Sky News.

Nice estimates that up to 36,000 people with early stage breast cancer could benefit, with the technique being offered as soon as next year.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The single dose is given at the same time as surgery, meaning patients can avoid exhausting regular radiotherapy, which typically requires numerous doses over a three-week period.

"It's still a new treatment – so far only six centres in the UK have used the Intrabeam radiotherapy system to treat early breast cancer," says Professor Carole Longson, director of health technology evaluation at Nice. "Because it is still relatively new it is only right to recommend its use in a carefully controlled way."

Breakthrough Breast Cancer said the "revolutionary" treatment was "great news" for early breast cancer patients due for breast conserving operations. Sally Greenbrook, senior policy officer at the charity, said it would not only cause less hassle for patients but it would also save the NHS time and money too.

"As this is a new technology, patients will need to be made aware of the pros and cons before going ahead," she said. "However, this technique can greatly reduce the disruption, stress and inconvenience of what for some people can be over 15 additional trips to and from hospital as well as saving the NHS money and time."

Marcelle Bernstein, a 71-year-old writer and tutor who was treated at a private hospital pioneering the therapy, told the Daily Mail it was a "godsend" that enabled her to be back to work within weeks.

Every year, around 41,500 women and 300 men in England are diagnosed with breast cancer.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.